Color e-readers have existed in prototype form for a while now but soon they'll be hitting the market en masse. It will all begin with Chinese e-reader maker Hanvon, a company that plans to ship the first color reader next year. Hanvon's device sports a 9.68-inch color touch screen, Wi-Fi, and 3G. It will retail in China in March 2011 for about $440. "It's possible that we'll sell this in the US as well," Liu Yingjian, Hanvon's chairman told The New York Times. Even if Hanvon doesn't do it, one of their competitors definitely will.
The e-reader uses a standard E Ink screen with a color filter. As a result, it still has the same low-power, lightweight, high-readability characteristics of its black-and-white brethren. The downside is that its screen is pretty static: color images and illustrations are okay (basic animation might be possible), but full-motion video is definitely out of the question. Furthermore, a lack of backlight means the colors won't be as bright as an LCD screen. Other features of the device have yet to be revealed; Hanvon is known for its handwriting technology, but it doesn't include it in all of its e-readers.
Color isn't as important in reading as it is in media entertainment and gaming. Will color illustrations be enough, or will readers instead choose the more powerful tablets with LCD screens? Chances are that consumers will want everything: e-books with color, media entertainment, video games, all with zero glare and the low power consumption that translates to longer battery life. Oh and a lower price tag wouldn't hurt. Right now that's not possible, so what tradeoffs will you settle for?